“False Gods” is largely a quieter episode, putting characters in situations that seem all too familiar, while trying to dress up the episode as character work. But, the episode merely uses these familiar circumstances to hastily push characters into positions that they are needed to be in to advance the plot forward. These developments occur inorganically, however, not unlike the plot that drives them. The attempt doesn’t adequately succeed and, much of prior character development or intelligence appears forgotten to make this work.
“False Gods” begins with a prologue to Sanctum’s radiation crisis. Trying to fix some issues that Sanctum’s nuclear reactor is experiencing, James, a familiar face, attempts to fix it. Cora, a Sanctum resident, attempts to help him, but they’re distracted by their budding romance. Evidenced by their relationship, not everyone in Sanctum restricts themselves to their factions and James seems to be doing better since we last saw him trying to avenge his mother’s death at Octavia’s hands. But, as The 100 continually reminds us, romance never lasts in this world.
As he tries to fix the problem by adjusting the control rods, he seals their fates. Leaving a wrench in a wrong place alters the rod mechanisms. The young lovers succumb to radiation poisoning, leaving the nuclear reactor in a state that will shortly lead to a catastrophic meltdown. As this sets up the majority of the action in “False Gods,” the only question that comes to mind is why?
The reactor malfunction comes off entirely out of left field. Yes, mistakes happen, but the timing of this makes little sense. There are no exterior factors or causation brought to the audience’s attention that would account for these types of mechanical issue occurrences. This seems to be the norm for this season: characters going through the motions not because their behavior is character-driven, or because it makes sense for their current arcs, but because the show needs these people to end in a specific place.
Of course, there should be an end goal in mind. However, much like Clarke in the premiere episode, not everything seems organic to their journeys. So far, season seven focuses on where our protagonists end up and not how they’re getting there. But, it’s how they get there that’s the most intriguing and captivating part of storytelling.
Does the ending actually matter if a disconnect between the characters and the audience forms along the way? Or, if random, non-sequitur events occur to push characters into certain places, even if it doesn’t flow well with the overarching plot?
These questions are the base of the emptiness this episode exudes. The 100’s season seven has an additional three episodes this season to finish this story. So far, time feels squandered, wasted on bottle episodes centering around characters the audience doesn’t necessarily feel compelled to care about or on repeated events slightly altered by circumstances. The anomaly is a massive undertaking and already this episode is another waste of time where time is desperately needed to pull off a massive science-fiction plot, one on an entirely different scale than the past lore of The 100.
THE PROBLEM WITH RUSSELL
Sheidheda, unbeknownst to everybody, has taken over Russell’s body. He’s been in Russell’s body for less than twelve hours and he’s already conniving. Did they not learn their lesson when Josephine stole Clarke’s likeness and she underwent a massive personality change?
Maybe there’s no reason to believe something could be suspicious, but after all the different AI-related problems Clarke and Friends have had, it would be reasonable for them to be on their guard. They aren’t.
JR Bourne’s performance makes this even more evident. Through his excellent portrayal, the differences in voice, physicality, and motive are unmistakenly apparent to the audience, which makes everyone else on-screen appear less cognizant than they probably have reason to be. This is mostly a compliment to Bourne, but also a critique of the way characters behave to service the plot.
So, when Clarke comes to visit Russheda regarding his execution and points out that he begged for her to save him and now he wants death by fire, that should raise a flag. Clarke has a lot on her mind, however, so I’ll give her a pass this time.
Side-note: While I appreciate everyone’s anger with Russell’s murder of Abby, it would be cathartic for somebody to acknowledge that Russell more-or-less killed Clarke too, even if she had access to a hack of sorts that allowed her revival. Bellamy (and Madi) are still the only people who have really vocalized any anguish regarding her loss, and Clarke has a right to be angry about her almost stolen life as well.
AND THE PROBLEM WITH JORDAN
“Russell’s” execution brings about problems that could be just as much of a problem as another rogue AI. Factions are warring (I wonder where we’ve seen that before) due to the planned execution. Jordan, either by way of mind or his experiences last season, sympathizes with Russell’s followers, and listens as one of them, Alyssa, hypothesizes violence as a means to save him. She’s manipulating him, as she spots Jordan before even beginning the conversation Jordan eavesdropped on that reels him in. Having the idea planted in his head that he needs Russell to talk his followers down, Jordan becomes an easy target and plays right into their hands.
Jordan delivers the message to Russell and tells him, “Go out doing the right thing.” The line, emblematic of Jordan’s parents and their fate, is a stand-out moment in the exchange and it’s a nice reprieve from faults in Jordan’s writing to see his parents’ MO shine through via their child. Jordan even acknowledges the powerful effect that Monty has had, and reiterates his commitment to continuing Monty Green’s legacy.
However pleasant the small moments are, Jordan, a legacy character of sorts for the departed Monty and Harper, deserves better than this plot. He’s been gullible and regularly manipulated since his introduction and it’s not the fate he deserved. Monty and Harper were fan favorites and yes, they did raise him in what can be assumed to be a peaceful and compassionate way. But they were also smart, head-strong, and intuitive. Jordan has the capacity to be all these things and more, his unique upbringing and relationship to the rest of the protagonists adding another unique layer to his character. This could even liven up and diversify the conversations and conflicts in The 100 considering Jordan’s unique experience. Instead, he serves as an access point for the warring factions to reach Clarke and Indra, the people currently in power. And that’s when he just doesn’t disappear for a long stretch of episodes with little explanation or purpose.
But perhaps he’s safe, as Bellamy has seemed to take over the position of unexplained absence this season.
With James dead, the power’s out in Sanctum, so Raven fetches Emori to help. A cute little scene plays out between Emori, Murphy, and Raven, and it’s one of the few interactions that genuinely sell the close bonds between the seven who survived six years of space together, though survived may be a strong word. Ignoring the fact that the burnt castle still looks decent on the inside, and not burnt, Raven pulls Emori out of morning bliss with Murphy and they discover James’s mistake and his and Cora’s corpses.
An excellent moment for Raven’s second, Emori’s fantastic character growth shines at this moment. From when she began, Emori did what was necessary to secure the survival for herself and the people closest to her. Now, she shows not only the ways she’s grown intellectually through her found family but also shows the growth of her compassion and empathy for others as her instincts guide her to attempt to save James and Cora.
Raven gathers Indra and the nightbloods (save Madi), and they have a group circle on how to fix the problem. In one of the more amusing moments of the episode, both Clarke and Murphy volunteer Clarke for the difficult task of fixing the control rods, but Clarke’s too busy dealing with an execution.
Poor Clarke, not being able to put her life on the line to save the day this time.
Raven lays-out a plan: Emori fixes the control rods, Wonkru members fix the cooling pipe leaks, and Murphy acts as back-up. Indra worries about the side-effects, but Raven insists it’ll be temporary sickness and she doesn’t trust the miners with the lives of everyone else in Sanctum.
ANOTHER KRU BREAK-UP
Indra takes the helm to get four welders from Wonkru to help fix the core. After becoming fed up and feeling abandoned by their commander, the grounders demand that Madi give the order herself. This is where things devolve due to different priorities. Indra wants to get this done and having the most exposure to the grounder’s way of things, is prepared to use Madi to achieve their goal. Clarke, however, is unwilling to shoulder any more responsibility on Madi, knowing how it’s affected her, and doesn’t want her to take on the burden of leadership once more, especially when death is a risk. Gaia, on the other hand, just wants to tell people the truth. Having been wrecked with her own loss of faith and place in the world, Gaia intends to lead her people forge a new way.
Old habits die hard, though, and as Wonkru devolves and separates into their original clans, one welder even defends Sheidheda, which may be an interesting introduction into the way Sheidheda’s plot plays out moving forward. Our characters from Trikru despise him, but that may not be consistent for all of the original clans.
“Faith may be blind, but loyalty isn’t,” Indra reminds her daughter, right before the havoc breaks loose.
While Gaia is wracking with uncertainty, she has never been portrayed as an unintelligent character. Her grief blinds her at this moment, and her decision to be candid introduces another instance of a character acting foolishly in attempts to get other characters to a specific place. Gaia knows the harshness of their people; she endured this from her own mother, who drove her away. It makes little sense that she would suddenly forget this due to her own struggles and risk driving her people apart, making Sanctum an even more unstable society.
Without the help of Wonkru, Raven immediately heads to the Eligius convicts to ask for their help. She reiterates that the job she needs them to complete is “fairly routine,” neglecting to mention the risks. One has to wonder how aware Raven was of the dangers at this point in time. She has already explained to the others that the welders would endure temporary radiation sickness as a result of this job but mentions nothing of the sort to the convicts. This, combined with Raven’s past comments of not being able to trust the prisoners, as well as Clarke’s insistence to Indra about refusing to let Madi order people to die possibly, begs the question. Was Raven confident that there wouldn’t any be any longer-term risks? Or was she downplaying the risks to everyone and even herself?
As Raven secures their help, including Hatch, who along with his partner, Nikki, present themselves as leaders of the group, Raven stays convicted, showing no signs of self-doubt or contemplation. Her mind focuses on the task.
First up, Emori enters the room containing the core, and she has sixty seconds to realign all the control rods. She struggles. Inevitably, she completes the task. Again, this is another great moment for her, as the outcast becomes one of the selected few who can complete this life-saving task. Emori has grown tremendously throughout the show and “False Gods” seems to highlight how far she’s come from the scavenger in the desert to the pilot and family member she is today.
Sanctum is not in the clear yet, however. The temperature of the core continues to rise and welding the coolant pipes isn’t as easy of a task as previously presented. Emori experiences radiation sickness from her job, but Murphy begins retching too, meaning the radiation leak is spreading. As the sickness spreads to the Eligius miners, Emori and Murphy suggest pulling them out, which isn’t as much as a cockroach sentiment as Murphy generally preaches. However, she dismisses their concern, as this task is essential to their survival.
Raven continues to lie to the welders without much fault, showing no signs of doubt.
ANOTHER COCKROACH MOMENT
In a shocking moment, Raven sends Murphy into the room where the miners are welding with extra nitrogen needed to make repairs. However, she locks him inside, remarking that she may not rely on the miners, but she knows Murphy will do anything to survive. It’s a cold move from Raven, one that she certainly wouldn’t have approved of in past seasons.
But Raven has to do this. Clarke can’t swoop in and absolve her of a heartbreaking choice, one Raven seems to have made up her mind about already.
Once inside, Hatch, the last miner left in working condition, knowingly vows to finish this so he, and Murphy, could save the people they love. It’s a conversation reminiscent of the one Murphy exchanges with Bellamy in season three and it makes the absence of Bellamy all the more noticeable.
Chatting with Hatch, Murphy listens to a snippet of Hatch’s history with Nikki, introducing her ruthlessness that is sure to come up again later. In a heavy moment, Murphy suggests this good deed could absolve him of his misdeeds. But, Hatch tells him, “There’s no making up for it.”
The line lands so heavily that the Hatch’s conclusion feels like a heavy dose of foreshadowing for Murphy. He is a cockroach. The 100 tells us as much at least once a season. But even cockroaches die eventually. Will Murphy be able to find peace when all is said and done? Or will the actions he committed out of self-preservation and fear become something he will never be able to shed?
WHEN THE TABLES HAVE TURNED
Even through the chit-chat, Murphy and Hatch successfully mend the pipes, and the temperature begins to recede. However, it’s too late for Hatch, and he collapses, dead, and Raven finally begins to process the deaths she feels responsible for.
Nikki comes to the workshop, searching for Hatch, and finds him dead, sending her into a rage to which she assaults Raven, calling her a murderer and a liar. She’s one to talk. Raven doesn’t fight back and she barely accepts help, as the familiar cycle of self-hatred has begun.
Overall, this plot needed more precise execution. Without touching on the fact that the reactor meltdown randomly occurred and likely has little effect on the overarching plot of the season, this plot treated Raven as a different character than who she was. However, Raven’s personality hasn’t been exactly consistent for the past several seasons.
Raven is not innocent, nor has she avoided making decisions that resulted in people’s deaths. She helped take down the mountain, the grounders in season one, and the city of light. While a lot of times she’s had distance from the gut-wrenching moment of decision, she’s always had a hand in the deaths that others pulled the trigger on. She’s always been a somewhat judgemental character, though, to the point of pointing out to Clarke that she’s the one that is responsible for deciding who lives and who dies. But shortly after, it felt like she was making a turn. Having to grapple with withholding medication from Luna’s people who were dying of radiation poisoning seemed like it could have been a turning point leading to more understanding.
Unfortunately, dropping this throughline after season four, the writing doubled-down on Raven’s more judgemental character traits and eased up on her more compassionate ones. Largely, Raven has become a character that is harder for people to connect with. Not only have her disability struggles eased up, they often became neglected. Also, her forcefulness of moral superiority distanced her from the audience as viewers seemed to remember Raven’s culpability while the narrative simply forgot.
The disconnect that developed between Raven and some fans in the later seasons continues to persist. Even her forgiveness and the rekindling of her relationship with Clarke came from shared grief, not increased understanding. The writing of her during this nuclear meltdown crisis didn’t help alleviate the disconnect, as unlike many characters who have made plaguing decisions, no evidence of any self-doubt, regrets, or guilt plagued her until after everything resolved. “False Gods” approached her portrayal in a way that didn’t exactly make her decision-making comprehensible.
Again, this was a scenario not unlike other situations Clarke and others have faced. However, when it comes to syncing up characters and strengthening their bonds in season seven, the only solution the writers seem to come up with is plopping characters in the literal shoes of others. Raven and Octavia are both victims of this storytelling style and as it was in the previous episode, this style is still too on the nose this week. There are other ways to mend relationships and create understanding and sympathy. For some reason, the writers can’t, or choose not to, utilize any of them in season seven. As it stands, the only way to make Raven genuinely sympathetic to Clarke, was to put her through a repeat scenario. This feels disingenuous, mainly because there were no real stakes for any of the named characters, considering this is only episode three of sixteen.
However, this may not be the only goal for this scenario. As Raven navigates through this disaster, many times, her opinions of the prisoners affect her actions. She doesn’t trust Eligius, seemingly looks down upon them and the convicts who were designated to tents in the middle of the compound. She even refuses to tell them any aspect of the truth or allow them to have any last words or messages to any people they may care about. The prisoners even discuss among themselves how the other people of Sanctum belittle them and treat them poorly, with likely an exaggerated benefit upon completion of the new compound. While the main point of this plot could be Raven finally coming to an understanding of others, perhaps her stoic and condescending behavior will drive the Eligius to a heightened state of fear, mistrust, and paranoia, possibly catapulting Sanctum further into a faction war.
While I don’t appreciate the lack of memory and subtlety it took to push Raven to this point in her development, I am glad she reached it nonetheless. Her actions moving forward will likely be unique compared to previous seasons. Hopefully, the Princess-Mechanic bond, that many fans miss from earlier seasons of The 100, has the opportunity to rekindle in a meaningful way. The idea of a Raven plagued more by her own decisions and not factors more outside of her control is an intriguing route to take her character, even if it’s almost too late.
HALLOWED BE HIS NAME
Meanwhile, Clarke brings Russell out to speak to his people in the hopes that his execution can go off without a hitch! Just The 100 things, am I right? Giving a moving speech, he’s interrupted by what seems to be a Child of Gabriel, who shoots him in the shoulder, the meeting erupting in chaos and violence.
Checking back in with him at the end of the episode as Raven, Emori, and Murphy enter the sickbay due to their nuclear core related injuries, Alyssa enters, bringing “Russell” … a cookie, another ploy to update the assumed Prime. In a not-at-all shocking plot twist, Alyssa reveals that manipulating Jordan into allowing Russheda into a situation that allowed a staged shooting was in the works all episode long.
Everything went according to plan and Russheda is now safe as Indra and Clarke no longer opting to execute him as to avoid turning him into a martyr. Predictable and expected, Russheda is now in a position to where he has relative safety and can use his tact to manipulate the politics of Sanctum further. His exact endgame, other than some sort of destruction and chaos, still unknown.
Ending “False Gods” on this note, I only wish The 100 would further utilize JR Bourne beyond a recycled commander plot, largely unnecessary due to the faction war brewing in Sanctum, also largely recycled from similar conflicts in earlier seasons.
MEET OUR NEW SUPPORTING CHARACTER, CLARKE GRIFFIN
It’s difficult to recall an episode that entirely focused on the location that Clarke found herself in but barely focused on Clarke at all. This is just not an issue for “False Gods.” However, it was an issue in season seven’s premiere as well.
While Clarke is present, her scenes lack something. Not the easiest to pinpoint, but heart is missing. Maybe this can be attributed to her attempt to conceal her emotions and keep herself together after losing her mother. Still, those threads were present after Abby’s demise in season six, but this issue did not present itself at that time.
Right now, Clarke exists to help separate Wonkru. She exists to provide Sheidheda an opportunity to commandeer Russell’s body. Clarke exists as a figurehead for Sanctum. However, her story is no longer driving the plot. The plot is happening to her and even in episodes she appears in, especially this one, she is not the focus.
Clarke Griffin is a guest in her own story and, with the absence of other fan-favorites like Bellamy and Octavia, The 100 doesn’t feel like The 100 anymore. The one development that possibly may be happening is her developing relationship with Gaia.
And even that’s a stretch. While The 100’s writers released a script snippet that includes suggestive description to hint at a possible romantic relationship with Gaia, the on-screen direction does not match the textual description provided for “From the Ashes.”
While some of the body language and lingering moments could potentially read in that way from the first episode, the scenes from “False Gods” reads much more platonically.
In fact, in the two scenes between Clarke and Gaia that dive deeper into their emotions, the timing doesn’t seem accurate. Almost as if the scenes added into this episode exist purely to give Clarke a few minutes of screentime. Even with these additions, Clarke’s minimal presence feels off-putting. By the time the episode ends, an emptiness persists.
Clarke and Gaia are very different people. While they are both grieving, Gaia is still an emotional person of faith, while Clarke is pragmatic and logical. The two’s primary connection is Madi, and it wasn’t until recently that they were on the same page regarding the last commander. While this gives Gaia more material to work with for a scene with Clarke, rather than someone like Niylah, the conversations still fall flat. Gaia has more content to give back, due to her struggle with her faith and mentorship of Madi. Still, the emotional connection isn’t quite well-formed enough to throw these women together without noticing the face-value conversations or the fact that Clarke only is allowed to exist in a limited capacity.
Clark and Gaia don’t talk to each other, exactly. They talk at each other as if the other woman is a sounding board, expelling each other’s issues, but not exactly relating to them in a similar way. They are going through grief, but it’s not quite something the other seems to understand. It’s not surprising, considering how different they are at their core.
That’s not to say they don’t exude emotion in their scenes. They do. But I have yet to see an emotional connection from both characters simultaneously. While I think both of them could grow by having the other as a friend or family member, it’s still difficult to discern any emotions beyond a bond formed by shared concern or necessity. I do not see the same lingering eye contact, touches, framing, or emotional beats seen in past relationships with Clarke and Finn, Lexa, or even Niylah.
Or Bellamy, if I’m being completely candid.
Clarke does need good friendships. Badly. This recurring issue exists throughout the run of The 100 with only her primary, stable friendship existing between her and Bellamy.
To that point, the conversations Clarke and Gaia have could have weight and feel meaningful, but due to the lack of history and multi-season build-up, these moments fall flat. Replace Gaia with Bellamy, or even Madi or Murphy, and these scenes would have more gravitas, due to the complex histories and beats between these characters.
Regardless of the nature of their relationship, these scenes don’t flow well with the rest of the episode, and draw attention to how oddly placed Clarke is within this season’s narrative. She’s there, yes. But Clarke doesn’t feel there because right now, Clarke is nothing more than a plot device. She’s not the chess player, she’s just a piece, mindlessly moving to the next spot in a strategy to meet the end goal.
This is Clarke’s show and I miss her. I want her to have passion, agency, and more than anything, the fully-fleshed relationships she deserves as a bisexual protagonist. Her rekindled, and newly formed bonds of romance, friendship, and family, require devotion and attention, especially to land her in what is hopefully a peaceful ending when The 100 comes to a close. Happiness is important, but developing that happiness in a detailed and non-hasty way, is just as important, if not more, especially to viewers who find representation in Clarke Griffin.
So, why has she been forgotten other than a recycled scene or two about “doing better”?
TELL US YOUR THOUGHTS!
What did you think of “False Gods”? Do you miss Bellamy Blake as much as we do? What do you think of Clarke’s role and relationships in this season so far? Let us know in the comments or tweet us @theyoungfolks.